I feel honoured and also delighted to take on the role of Literature Programme Manager at Asia House and to be given the opportunity of carrying the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival into the future with the vital and generous contribution of our lead sponsor and title partner, the Bagri Foundation and our Festival partners, writers, poets, publishers, translators and most importantly, with the participation of our ever-growing audience.
And, it is for these reasons that we have put together a rich and diverse literary programme designed for all lovers of the written word in all its shades for the 11th edition of the 2017 Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival – the only pan-Asian literature festival in the UK. Poets inspired by social issues; short-story writers engaging with the human condition; historians surfacing long-forgotten pasts, journalists living on the edge and novelists taking on the world… And in all of this diversity, we focused our efforts on giving voice and power to more women writers than ever during this time of overwhelming global change and literary wealth.
This year we will be giving a kick-start to our programme with some fascinating pre-Festival events covering a wide range of current subjects. With The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write we welcome award-winning playwright Sabrina Mahfouz and prominent writers Leila Aboulela, Selma Dabbagh and Samira Shackle, contributors to a unique anthology of the same title. Due to be published by Saqi Books in April, this ground-breaking collection of stories and poems from Algiers to Brighton transcends time and place revealing just how varied the search for belonging can be. Chaired by journalist and literary critic Arifa Akbar, they will be changing our perception of what it means to be a British Muslim woman in today’s world.
Choo Waihong, a Singaporean corporate lawyer turned writer, will be in conversation with acclaimed journalist and editor of chinadialogue, Isabel Hilton OBE for our talk, The Kingdom of Women which is based on Choo Waihong’s experiences with the Mosuo tribe, the last surviving matrilineal and matriarchal society in the world.
Growing up in a Changing China will take you through novelist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo’s journey from a remote fishing village on the East China Sea to her life as an artist in England and beyond. Guo will be in conversation with Pamela Kember, Head of Arts & Learning at Asia House, about her memoir Once Upon a Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up.
As the first month of spring comes to an end we will remember Georgian poet Nikoloz Baratashvili on the occasion of his 200th birth anniversary with a talk by Donald Rayfield, Emeritus Professor of Russian and Georgian at Queen Mary University in London. Ambassador of Georgia, H.E. Tamar Beruchashvili will also be attending the event and delivering an introductory speech.
Sponsored by Cockayne Grants for the Arts, a donor-advised fund of the London Community Foundation, we are delighted to introduce our brand-new series of talks, Sin Cities: Vice and Virtue Across Asia’s Urban Landscapes. Featuring a series of talks about the Asian continent’s largest, most intriguing and awe-inspiring cities, Sin Cities will run throughout the Festival to transport you from London to Bangkok, Mumbai and Kolkata, Shenzhen, Beirut, Pyongyang and Manila via the literary works of some of today’s most exciting and talented Asian writers.
On 9th May we will be opening the jam-packed 2017 Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival with Christina Lamb OBE, one of Britain’s leading foreign correspondents and bestselling authors. Since starting out in Peshawar where her despatches with the Afghan mujaheddin fighting the Russians saw her named “Young Journalist of the Year” in the British Press Awards in 1988, she has won Foreign Correspondent of the Year five times as well as the Prix Bayeux, Europe’s most prestigious award for war correspondents. She was awarded an OBE by the Queen in 2013 and she is currently the Chief Foreign Correspondent for The Sunday Times. She has written eight books including the bestselling I Am Malala with Malala Yousafzai, named “Non-fiction Book of the Year” in the British Book Awards; The Africa House; Small Wars Permitting and Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World. Her latest book, Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair was published in 2016 by HarperCollins. If you admire the likes of Marguerite Higgins, Lee Miller and Martha Gellhorn this is a rare opportunity to meet their contemporary, Christina Lamb and hear what life is like reporting from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
August 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India into India and Pakistan, and we will be remembering it with our panel talk, The Empire Writes Back. Aamer Hussein, short-story writer, novelist and editor of Kahani: Short Stories by Pakistani Women; Mohini Kent, author of Black Taj and Radhika Swarup, author of Where the River Parts will be chaired by Kavita A. Jindal, author, editor and co-founder of “The Whole Kahani” collective who put together a collection of short-stories titled, Love across a broken map.
If you thought that we forgot about the kids, of course we haven’t! Families are invited to our Asian Shadow Puppetry Workshop on Saturday 13th May to get acquainted with the Asian traditions and legends around the ancient art of shadow puppetry. Working with Eastside Educational Trust artist Lori Hopkins – a professional puppeteer and consultant for Shakespeare’s Globe Education – children will have the opportunity to design and make their own puppets, explore storytelling and share their own stories in short performances which will bring the puppets to life.
We all deserve a good laugh. So with that thought in mind, we are putting on an exclusive night of comedy. Come and join us on Thursday 18th May at our Comedy Night as we hand over our stage to two brilliant comedians: Bilal Zafar, 2016 Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee, 2017 Chortle Award nominee and 2016 New Act of the Year award winner, and Yuriko Kotani, a UK-based Japanese comedian who won the 2015 BBC Radio New Comedy Award and was nominated for the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year in 2016. Between them they will be delivering three sets of incredibly witty, highly entertaining and absorbing comedy.
We will go back in time with Min Jin Lee as she presents her novel Pachinko for the first time in the UK with our talk, Reflections on the East Asian 20th Century. Beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them, the novel follows a Korean family through four generations. Lee will be in conversation with author, literary critic and former Man Booker Prize for Fiction judge Erica Wagner to reveal a profound story which delves into questions of faith, family and identity.
On May 26th, after two and a half weeks of thought-provoking and engaging talks, we will be closing the 2017 Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival with Nadeem Aslam acclaimed author of Maps for Lost Lovers and The Blind Man’s Garden. Aslam will be in conversation with award-winning cultural journalist and critic Maya Jaggi. Together they will talk about his new brave, timely and searingly beautiful novel, The Golden Legend set in contemporary Pakistan.
Last but not least, we are delighted to announce our new partnerships with Asian Review of Books and Tilted Axis Press, and continue our ongoing partnership with Asia Literary Review. We are also grateful to Cockayne Grants for the Arts for their munificent contribution and making our brand-new series of talks Sin Cities: Vice & Virtue Across Asia’s Urban Landscapes possible.
So, do ensure your calendars are marked for joining us this spring, as we pursue the human values of peace, compassion, inclusion and openness through some of the most thought-provoking and extraordinary writers and thinkers of our times.
Hande Eagle, Literature Programme Manager
Read the stories by the winners of our 2016 Student Writing competition
Read about our programmes specifically designed to reach out to youth
Find out who sponsored this year’s Festival
Get tickets for our upcoming literature events here